Producing the Best Gift Basket at the Lowest Price


Starting a gift basket service has many advantages compared to other kinds of businesses: startup costs are low, no special premises are needed, online sales are a possibility, and it can be done to create an ancillary income stream for an existing business such as a florist or bakery.


However, it is still a business enterprise, with profit margins, costs and risks. It is possible to do very well at it without spending all your time working or investing everything you have, but it is also possible to lose a fair amount of money before having to shut it down. Much of the difference lies in being able to offer an outstanding product at a price people will be willing to pay.


Minimum Viable Products


There is always the temptation to go for the best and most impressive contents for each basket, but doing so can easily cause you to price yourself out of the market’s reach. Instead, offer a range of baskets at different price points for different purposes, for instance wedding party favors and hotel greeting baskets.


Some of what goes into each basket will in fact be filler – not useless junk, but not premium quality either. As a general rule, the Pareto principle can be used as a guide: a basket containing 20% highly appealing, extraordinary contents and 80% less distinctive items will mostly be seen as good value, the special goods sticking in people’s memory and the rest mainly being added for bulk. Make sure there are a variety of products so that something will appeal to everyone regardless of diet, lifestyle and individual taste.


Buy in Bulk

Making up baskets for a profit is all about aggregating products: buying appealing items at a low price and combining them to produce something that’s worth more than its components. One way of keeping the price you pay low is to buy a large quantity of something and store it, which of course applies only to non-perishable items. It’s often possible to buy directly from distributors in this case, cutting out retail profit margins. Online outlets are also frequently willing to offer discounts on larger purchases.


Many business experts will tell you that it’s usually a bad idea to tie up a lot of money in inventory, and they are generally right. Essentially, until you sell these items, the money you pay for them isn’t available for marketing, business development or anything else. You run the risk of getting stuck with something that you can’t use for longer than you want, so a little planning and even customer testing will be well worth it.


Bulk purchases also open up the possibility of re-packaging items such as skin products, condiments and coffee. Assuming that you can locate a supplier that offers both good quality and bulk options (Alibaba would be one starting point), you could buy these cheaply by the tens of pounds, buy elegant glass packaging from another supplier, pay a third to sandblast your or your customer’s logo onto them, and fill the containers. This strategy enables you to produce hundreds of graceful basket items for much less than their apparent cost. For an illustration of how this works, go to a supermarket and compare the price of baking mixes with what they contain: flour, cacao, raisins and so forth. The convenience factor of offering these already mixed together in the proper proportions, plus the cost reductions bulk buying make possible, mean that these kinds of products can be both affordable and appealing. Equipment such as laminating or vacuum-sealing machines may be more affordable than you think, especially when you can find a pre-owned model.


Be Creative


The gift products that make customers go “wow” aren’t necessarily the most expensive, but often the most appropriate or unexpected. This applies to basket design as well: how about a “new homeowner” basket for real estate agents containing WD-40, curtain rings, adhesive wall hooks and a few things that won’t cost you a dime, such as local takeout menus and a list of telephone numbers for reliable plumbers and other contractors? Initiative such as this can easily open up new markets for the enterprising gift basket provider.


It’s also worthwhile visiting craft fairs or trawling the internet for creative ideas. Something handmade or artisanal, such as a bottle of marmalade you can’t buy in stores or a knitted soft toy, can add the unforgettable touch to an ensemble while also supporting small businesses in your area.


The basket itself, which most people will have little use for once empty, can also be substituted with something else, such as a mixing bowl for the kitchen, a branded baseball cap, or a plant container. Consider fishing tackle boxes for a package that contains many small items such as beads. Remember: creating an offering that will exceed customers’ and gift recipients’ expectations is not always about the dollar value of a basket’s contents, but in the total experience it can provide.




Promoting Your Company with a Sample Basket


Selling a somewhat artisanal product such as gift baskets can be difficult. People don’t always understand how they can be beneficial in a business context, which is where the most consistent, most profitable sales are likely to be found. Others will prefer to assemble their own baskets without realizing that this is likely to cost them more, both in terms of time and money. Luckily, there exists a simple solution to this problem: giving away a few of your products to the local businesses who are most likely to order from you in future. Free stuff is rarely unwelcome, and doing this can drive the point home that you are able to provide an excellent, useful product for a reasonable price.


Show, Don’t Tell

The average sales or office manager is unlikely to have an abundance of time or a paucity of ideas on how to connect with their clients, visitors from out of town or other third parties. Nor will all of them be familiar with the idea of gift baskets as a marketing tool: some of them will be reminded of some monstrosity containing wilting bananas and candy that can be found in any corner store, while others will think that gift baskets are too expensive at the price.


Remember that you will be competing with numerous other options when it comes to your client marketing themselves to their clients: restaurant meals, event tickets and branded merchandise such as pens and baseball caps. A gift basket generally costs more than the latter, while other kinds of engagement allow a salesperson or other representative to spend time with a client in a relaxed atmosphere.


The only way to show that gift baskets are a viable option to impress and get the attention of other businesses is to give potential clients something they can see, touch and smell. This allows you to demonstrate that baskets have their own advantages: they need not cost the earth, they can be couriered or delivered to multiple people at once, and they offer unique possibilities for incorporating advertising messages in a way that recipientsare bound to notice without being intrusive.


Put Your Efforts Where They’ll Stick

Delivering a sample basket to “The office, 42 South Street” virtually guarantees that everything edible, elegant or shiny will have disappeared into a dozen hands long before anyone who’s in a position to make a decision about ordering from you even sees it.


Instead, a personal visit to deliver your sample baskets could take no more than ten minutes each and allows you to leave a price list, make a personal connection and ask around until you find the person who is most likely to order from you in future. If your cost of assembling a sample basket is $10 and you sell them at $20, you’ll want each sample basket, on average, to result in at least another being ordered. This will usually require not only having a great value offering, but also in letting potential buyers know what kinds of benefits gift baskets can bring them, and how well they compare to other alternatives.


Finally, make sure that potential clients can actually find you! If the sole way for them to contact your company relies on a card affixed to the exterior of a covered basket, chances are that it will be lost along with the packaging. Few people will be willing to do a large amount of work only to spend their money.


Making an Impression is Good, Selling Value is Better

It’s far better to sell 100 baskets at $5 profit each than 10 that each earn $50. The former makes getting repeat business that much more likely and helps drive down your costs by allowing you to negotiate with your own suppliers.


For this reason, while you will probably offer one or two high-ticket baskets for exceptional circumstances, it’s better to focus on products that offer the highest degree of perceived value for the lowest cost – you are giving them away for free, after all. Little touches like ribbons, careful arrangement of the contents and double-checking every promotional basket cost nothing but time and will certainly be worth it.


It is certainly a good idea to get a little creative when making a budget stretch further. The idea is to be as elegant as possible for the lowest reasonable cost, the savings of which can be passed on to your clients. Buying in bulk and using your own branded packaging is a good idea, as is considering substitutions, such as choosing an essential oil burner and its supplies over scented candles. Also, do a little research and tweak each basket you plan to give away: primarily male companies will only be confused by a basket containing many female beauty products, while alcohol is not always appropriate.


Appearance Is Everything: Tarting up a Gift Basket


The Chinese have a saying: “You eat with your eyes,” meaning that the appearance of a plate of food can be just as important as its taste. When designing a gift basket, this principle is just as important.Someone receiving a gift is unlikely to make a catalogue of what it actually contains as they go through it; what matters more is how they feel as they first see it.


General Guidelines

The size of the container should be appropriate to the contents. Have you ever been served a tiny portion on an oversized plate? It sucks, and so does receiving an XXL basket with only a few items, whatever they may be, rattling around the bottom. A smaller basket stacked to the rim, on the other hand, gives the appearance of abundance and generosity. If the gift basket is a hamper of only a few relatively expensive items, consider laying them flat in one layer with something like straw to keep them in place.


Color is very important psychologically. Choose and arrange items so that a variety of bright colors can be seen, and use principles such as complimentary colors or schemes when designing a basket. Once you have something that looks good, take a photograph so you can easily recreate it in future. The color of the basket and any wrapping should also be appropriate: you wouldn’t generally put edible items in a blue-green container. Red and yellow, on the other hand, stimulate the appetite – think of fast food restaurants’ logos.




A little spray paint can make the difference between a ratty-looking, uninspired basket or metal bucket and something fun that can be reused for years, although it’s worthwhile testing whether the paint will crack or flake with handling. The basket itself can be lined with hessian cloth or given a jacket made out of some other kind of fabric (it’s possible to use glue instead of trying to sew a cover together). Fabric can make even a cardboard box (with its base reinforced with a sheet of plywood) seem expensive and elegant.


There are arguments both for and against covering a basket with cellophane or another material. Certainly, this makes it easier to offer it in a retail environment or transport it, but it can also distract from the impression the contents generates, and crinkly plastic will make anything seem cheap. If going this route, at least take some time with ribbons and other decorations to reduce this effect.


Little Tricks

Very often, the perceived value of a basket can be greatly elevated by simply including a few little items that won’t raise its cost appreciably. The key is to make sure that these are appropriate and complementary to the basket’s theme.


Decorations such as pine cones or seashells can be had free or very cheaply, andadding a small cutting board and knife to a gourmet cheese set will be seen as extremely thoughtful and practical, while not adding much more than a dollar to its price. Babies’ socks, as another example, can be bought cheaply by the hundred and used both for maternity-themed gifts and around Christmas time.


Holidays such as Valentine’s Day and Easter, or even Secretaries’ day, offer other obvious opportunities. In fact, small cardboard cutouts, possibly enhanced with a little glitter, can bake a basket seem much more cheerful and friendly: hearts, flowers, etc. Fresh flowers and leaves have obvious drawbacks, but if the present is not expected to be stored for long, they can help make the basket seem much fuller and richer.




In some cases, a customer will prefer to write his own card, but it will never hurt to have a range of options printed out on some heavy stock. “Thanks for being a loyal customer” and similar messages are likely to be popular, as are cards that simply reinforce a given basket’s theme, like “For the coffee lover”. A little humor or creativity in this regard will be welcome, but attempts to get too cute will generally fall flat.